Response to Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Ambassador Peter Burkhard
The response of the OSCE Chair to the Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, Ambassador Peter Burkhard, globally lauds the mission as a success and Serbia as a country performing progresses in several domains. In this context, the United States observes that the OSCE Mission plays a vital role in the country’s development and allows it to be committed to regional and international stability.
Amongst the main discussed topics in the response are Serbia’s commitment to the EU accession process and related reforms, as it provides an essential platform for further changes to the electoral system and could open the door to much-needed constitutional amendments to the justice system. Serbia’s partnership with NATO is also considered a key process to obtain reforms in areas such as rule of law and counter-corruption.
Support to the Dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo on the normalization of relations is also renowned. According to the OSCE “every step towards the full normalization of relations between Belgrade and Pristina strengthens peace and stability in the region and Europe”.
In addition, Serbia’s efforts to respond to the migration and refugee crisis is lauded, along the work of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, which has coordinated efforts with the OSCE Mission in Skopje to assess the migrant processing and accommodation facilities on both sides of the Serbian-Macedonian border. As more than 800 000 migrants and refugees transited through the country in 2015, the OSCE notes that ”Serbia is treating migrants and refugees with compassion and dignity, while working to comprehensively address the humanitarian, legal, and administrative challenges presented by such a large number of people.”
Furthermore, the Serbian Parliament’s passage of an heirless property restitution law on February 12 is considered the final element of a comprehensive legal framework to address property seized from Holocaust victims.
Lastly, amongst the very few critics of the OSCE response, concerns are growing concerning the shrinking space in which civil society and independent media are able to operate. “Recent increases in negative media coverage of NGOs, reports of physical attacks against human rights activists and organizations, and the trumped up prosecution of a human rights activist for organizing a peaceful event last summer, under a law that the Serbian Constitutional Court had already ruled unconstitutional in April 2015, have threatened to stifle NGOs and civil society.”
The OSCE warns Serbia that further progresses toward democracy “will require not just legal and structural reforms, but a fundamental change in the relationship between government and civil society”.
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